“I’ve made $32,000 pet sitting so far this year!”

by J. Money - Published December 11, 2015

crystal's cozy care pet sitting

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[Welcome to gig #63 in our side hustle series! If you love animals and making money, you’ll REALLY love making money while PLAYING with animals :) And Crystal here will show you how as an official Animal Poop Professional (aka Pet Sitter). Take it away, C!]

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Hi guys, I’m a professional pet sitter. Specifically, I drive to my clients’ homes and take care of their cats, dogs, reptiles, amphibians, and fish.

My coolest pet client has been an 11 ½ foot long lavender reticulated python named Sephoria, but my normal clients are dogs and cats.

How I Got Started

My husband and I had two dogs, known on my blog as Miss Doxie and Mr. Pug. They both passed away within 3 months of each other in early 2014, so I threw myself into a pet sitting business as a way to cope. Crystal’s Cozy Care Pet Sitting was born in late February 2014 as my way of loving a ton of furry and scaly friends without getting as attached. It has worked out really well for me and more than 160 pets since I started!

What It Entails

I won’t lie. It entails a lot of poop. Animals are pretty much just adorable, loving poop machines. Since I am also a pet sitter that drives to my clients, it also entails a lot of driving within my service area.

The actual pet care itself is pretty simple. It requires an organized mind so you don’t miss any important steps, but as long as you make yourself comprehensive lists you’re golden. A normal visit includes either letting the dogs out in the back yard to go to the restroom or walking them, refilling water dishes, feeding them if it’s the right time, scooping litter boxes, doing the little extras like bringing in the mail or giving the pets medication, and making sure to lock up properly as you leave. Your list exists so you don’t miss the details like exactly how to feed each animal or if they have special needs.

The reason a good pet sitter is hard to find is because of the ABNORMAL visits. You know, the ones that are just insane or horrific. You need someone who can think on their feet in times like that. Here are a few of my most memorable stories…

The Just-Not-Normal Days

The absolute worst visit I can think of is the day I walked into the house of two golden retrievers that I just love to pieces. It reeked the second I walked in. I found the dogs near the back door almost immediately and shut them in the back yard. From the smell, I was just happy they weren’t dead. Then I walked through the house to find complete devastation.

The two older retrievers had somehow found and nibbled away the edges of a 10 POUND bar of World’s Finest Chocolate with almonds (a future Christmas gift for Dad). Luckily, it was milk chocolate and they are large dogs so they wouldn’t, and didn’t, die. BUT, they would puke and poop out liquid for 2 days straight. The house was just one puddle after another of almond-dotted chocolate gunk and they had flooded the dining room with pee. It took over 2 hours to even come close to cleaning up what I could.

Yep, just call my life classy.

My second most horrible visit was actually within the same week in a completely different house. Their 3 dogs had grabbed a whole container of powdered Coffee Mate off the kitchen counter and coated the huge living room in that white mess. It looked like someone had dusted the place with cocaine out of the movies. And the tiny puppy wasn’t completely housebroken yet, so the Coffee Mate had mixed with little pee puddles to create sticky, stinky messes that all the dogs had walked through. That was another long cleanup with a lot of cussing.

(Editor’s Note: Here’s another story that could happen to you when you’re pet watching – your animal could die! Which is exactly what happened to our poor Bob cat, may his soul rest in peace. It wasn’t our pet sitter’s fault as he was 14 y/o and on all kinds of meds (we think he was waiting for us to leave so he can die in peace) but you better have someone who can deal with it appropriately in the off chance! I wish I could say ours did, but the giggles that accompanied her phone call to us were anything but.)

bob cat

How Much I Make Pet Sitting

For pet sitting itself, I started at $15-$20 a visit early last year and currently make $20-$30 for most 30-45 minute basic visits depending on the location and number of pets. If they need me to stay the night at their home while they are away, I charge around $75-$85 per night, but that includes living out of their home during the day as well. That rate makes me cheaper than most kennels if you have 3 or more pets, and about the same costs with 2 big dogs, and a luxury expense if you only have one pet.

I started Crystal’s Cozy Care as a pure side hustle and was happy making $500-$1,000 a month for most of 2014. But like with most jobs you are good at, word gets around and business picks up. I now make $2,000-$4,000 a month and my husband helps me cover all of the visits during busy times like holidays.

From February 2014 through December 2014, I brought in $10,500. From January 2015 through November 2015, I have already made $31,600!

The Pros and Cons of Pet Sitting

Before I list these out, let me start by saying that you can only be a pet sitter if you have poop-tons of patience with animals and love being around them. If you easily lose your temper when an animal pees all over the place or you rather not spend hours with other people’s “fur babies”, THIS IS NOT THE JOB FOR YOU. That said, here are the pros and cons if you love animals more than people and don’t get sick at the sight of bodily fluids.

The Pros:

  • You get to be around animals!
  • You are helping an animal stay in its own home or a nicer home than a kennel if you board them yourself.
  • You can let other people enjoy their time away from the house more since they don’t have to worry about their pets or home since you are giving them regular updates.
  • You make good friends with the people and pets you start working with regularly.
  • Your schedule is somewhat flexible depending on how many jobs you take on. “Mornings” can range from 7am-10am, afternoons can be 1pm-4pm, and evenings can be 7pm-11pm.
  • I’m pretty happy with the $20-$30 rates I charge now that I have experience.

The cons:

  • Most surprises suck. They almost always involve something that smells awful.
  • Driving from job to job can put a lot of miles on you and your car.
  • YOU CAN GET HURT. I’ve been bitten twice. Both happened on the pre-meets with the pets and humans in advance. Once was on my finger and the other was on my forearm. The most recent one on my forearm required 6 stitches and is still pretty visible – a Great Pyrenees chomped down for just a split second and we still don’t really know why. I was taking his harness off after a test walk with his owner. Both sets of humans had not warned me that their dogs were just plain aggressive because they lied to themselves in their heads the past times their dogs were assholes.

How To Get Started Pet Sitting

It was really easy to get started. I came up with the business name, Crystal’s Cozy Care Pet Sitting, and listed my services on Craigslist for free all in about an hour. I kept relisting a new post every day and renewing my existing posts every three days as they allowed.

I was offered my first job in about 3 days, with another one about 10 days after that. My third job came in yet another week or so and lasted for a 2 week trip. After about a month, I started bringing in 1-2 new clients weekly.

That’s when I finally decided to spend a little on my company. I bought my first set of business cards ($20), then my domain name ($15), and finally started my business website ($20). My only other expenses in the first 2 months were to invest in pet sitting insurance ($305 a year) and to buy magnetic signs for my car from a company on Ebay ($25 for two signs).

In the first 2 months, I had made $1,600 and spent $405. Over 2014, I made about $10,500 and spent about $600 total (not including gas, which is sort of reimbursed through the excellent tax write-off for mileage). And this year I’ve already made well past $30,000. Yay for low overhead businesses!

What do you think? Could pet sitting be a side hustle or business for you?

bird pet sitting
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Crystal Stemberger is the owner and author over at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff, her personal finance blog, as well as Dog’s Life For Me – her blog on pet sitting adventures. She also manages blog advertising for others. You can contact her anytime by email: budgetingfunstuff *at* gmail.com!

[Like reading about ways to make money? Check out all 60+ other side hustles we’ve featured here over the years. And if you have one of your own that’s cool, let me know about it!]

Jay loves talking about money, experimenting, blasting hip-hop, and hanging out with his two beautiful boys. You can check out all of his online projects at jmoney.biz. Thanks for reading the blog!

{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Brian @DebtDiscipline December 11, 2015 at 6:29 am

I love animals. I’ve owned cats, dogs, fish, rats, etc over my lifetime, but I’m not sure if I’d want to pick up poop on a daily basis. :)

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2 Crystal December 11, 2015 at 10:48 am

Believe me, I wonder about that sometimes too, hahaha.

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3 Stockbeard December 14, 2015 at 5:36 pm

Yup, not for me either, but great hustle :)

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4 John C @ Action Economics December 11, 2015 at 6:33 am

Wow that’s an amazing haul for Pet Sitting! Pet sitting is one of those things like lawn mowing that people tend to associate with extremely part time jobs for teenagers. It’s amazing how much money a smart enterprising person can make after developing a system. Congratulations on your tremendous growth! What is your goal for next year? Is your business still growing rapidly?

Personally I’m not a big enough fan on animals for a side hustle like this, but it sounds like a perfect future job for my oldest kid (we actually call him the cat whisperer sometimes) He adores animals.

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5 Crystal December 11, 2015 at 10:51 am

Thanks! My husband and I are going to try to have a baby in 2016, so my main goal is to get pregnant and my side goals are to just keep my online business and pet sitting business from dying. I’ll probably find/hire 1-2 pet sitters to keep up my schedule. So I’m betting I won’t make as much as this year, but hopefully $20,000+.

Tell your oldest kid to look into it. It’s fun if you love animals!

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6 Chris @ Flipping A Dollar December 11, 2015 at 3:05 pm

Lol I can’t help but say that is such a fun goal!

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7 Crystal December 11, 2015 at 4:34 pm

We’ve been practicing for like 14 years so I don’t think we’ll mind trying for realsies. ;-)

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8 J. Money December 17, 2015 at 3:08 pm

Oh Lawd, haha…

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9 Chris @ Flipping A Dollar December 11, 2015 at 6:42 am

Lol.sounds kind of crappy… :)

We have two cats but never looked at pet sitting as an option. We just leave them tons of extra food, water bowls, an extra litter box, and leave the toilet seat up just in case they get extra thirsty. I think we’ve gone 7 or 8 days max and they were fine. If they had medical needs, that might be another story!

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10 Crystal December 11, 2015 at 10:52 am

This is an option for less social cats, but some of the ones I take care of would go nuts after about 2 days without human contact…

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11 Tara December 12, 2015 at 2:41 pm

my cats definitely are not the type to go without human interaction! We had a pet sitter when we go out but came home after a 10 day vacation and our slightly overweight cat had serious bladder crystals and and an expensive pet hospital stay occurred! he’s now on Urinary SO food but we might have to kennel him and/or pay for someone to spend the night as he is such an anxious people needing cat.

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12 Crystal December 12, 2015 at 3:41 pm

I would suggest seeing if a family member or friend would mind eating your food and using your cable while you are away. Pet sitters charge $50-$100 a night, so we are great backups for those times that no one free is available, lol. Kennels would stress him out most likely.

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13 Jennifer December 14, 2015 at 10:30 am

I can’t believe the price people are paying in Houston. We pay $40/day for two dogs and a rat and that includes the sitter sleeping over at least half the time. Plus, we live in Seattle where everything is pricey. You have found a great niche there.

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14 Mrs. Money Monster December 11, 2015 at 6:53 am

As a former pet sitter in college, this article really caught my eye. Had I known it could be so lucrative I would’ve done a better ‘job’ of focusing on building up clients. I only ever had one client, but it went well. I was paid $10 for a 30-minute visit. Cheap, but I was in college and desperate. This is truly an inspirational ‘tail’ ;)

Mrs. Mad Money Monster

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15 Crystal December 11, 2015 at 10:56 am

I didn’t think about making it into a real business in college either. I don’t think I could have pulled it off with my school schedule. It’s a nice second job really…

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16 Claudia @ Two Cup House December 11, 2015 at 7:13 am

We almost always use a pet sitter, and I wondered what the experience was like. Thanks for sharing her story! The income looks good, but it’s a lot of hard work on holidays that we’re traveling–not a side hustle for us while we have jobs ourselves. Maybe one day. :)

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17 Crystal December 11, 2015 at 10:58 am

Yeah, it’s only a side hustle for people with very flexible other jobs since most of pet sitting happens between 8-11am, 2-4pm, and 5-11pm for me. I fit in the online work between all of that or on light days like today.

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18 Roy Largo @ Band of Savers December 11, 2015 at 7:17 am

That sounds like an awesome side gig. I’ve always been averse to pet sitting because I didn’t want them in our house but going to their house is a great solution. My wife has been asking when we should get a pet for our boys. I’ve succeeded in putting it off this far but maybe I’ll suggest this as an option for her to do with them to see if she still wants one herself.

Thanks for sharing the information about how to get started, that’s been the hardest part for us with side gigs in the past.

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19 Crystal December 11, 2015 at 11:00 am

Getting started for me is usually just jumping in and handling stuff as it pops up…I made it way more orgamized-looking in this post since hindsight is awesome. Yeah, see if any family or friends need pet sitting for Christmas. They may not appreciate all the bodily functions they deal with, lol.

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20 Penny @ She Picks Up Pennies December 11, 2015 at 8:09 am

This is definitely one of those hustles that is much more complicated than what meets the eye. We have a local neighborhood forum that is kind of like Facebook, and I’m starting to see requests for pet sitters. I hadn’t given it much thought until reading this post!

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21 Crystal December 11, 2015 at 11:02 am

I get business from Nextdoor.com and I would highly suggest trying out a pet sitting job or two and then deciding if it’s something you want to do long term. I got insured two jobs in because I wanted it to pay for itself.

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22 Steve Miller December 11, 2015 at 8:20 am

This sounds like a great side hustle for an animal lover. I’ve also heard of people house-sitting as a side-hustle, that’s also an option for those that don’t have the dog or cat “love gene”. Congrats on your business, you’re doing great!

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23 Crystal December 11, 2015 at 11:03 am

I offer house sitting too but I haven’t met anyone yet that needs their pet-less house watched. They may just see my bird-on-my-head pic and assume pets have to be involved though.

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24 superbien December 11, 2015 at 8:28 am

Awesome job, Crystal! Thanks for sharing with us! $32k for a side hustle is great!

Do you also do regular dog walking? Around me, $20-30 covers 1 20-minute walk, with regular daily business.

I’m curious about how this is a side hustle rather than a full time job. The hours – morning, afternoon, night, weekends, holidays – sound pretty all consuming. I’m not seeing much other money-producing work one can do with those time constraints. $32k as a side hustle sounds awesome; as one’s main job, less so. Could you provide more info on what rough percent of your time you spend on this vs other work?

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25 Crystal December 11, 2015 at 11:10 am

I have one ongoing dog walking job – 3 times a week for 2 Australian Shepherds. It pays $67.50 a week ($22.50 per half hour walk). They got a discount down from $25 a walk since they pay automatically from their bank and have been clients since the summer of 2014.

LOL, yeah, I think it’s a $10k side hustle pretty easily but is way more like a real job when you get booked up. I still call it a side hustle since my main business is blogging and blog advertising management. I make more online usually, but not always now. So it’s a nice 2nd job that started as a fun side hustle. I spend about 30 hours a week with work online and another 20-30 hours in a regular week on pet sitting. During extremely busy vacation weeks like Thanksgiving, I put in 60+ hours a week but that is only 4-5 weeks a year.

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26 superbien December 14, 2015 at 10:25 am

Thanks for the info on your main job, that’s cool that you can make that work. You have a lot going on!

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27 Money Beagle December 11, 2015 at 9:08 am

Great work, Crystal. You definitely put your mind to something and make it successful. I think that the chances of biting and such would take it away for me as a possible option. I got bit once back in high school when showing up to a girl’s house to take her out on a date, and ever since then I’m very cautious when meeting new dogs.

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28 Crystal December 11, 2015 at 11:11 am

Yeah, and being cautious isn’t usually enough. I was keeping an eye out for biting both times and still got gotten…luckily I don’t freak at the site of my own blood…just other people’s.

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29 J. Money December 17, 2015 at 3:18 pm

Did you get to go on your date, Money Beagle?? :)

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30 Kristi @ Femme Frugality December 11, 2015 at 9:26 am

I wish you lived closer to where I live! I’d hire you in a heartbeat. We just had a really awful experience with pet sitter. I don’t think I could take care of pets as a side hustle. That’s a pretty lucrative side gig though!

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31 Crystal December 11, 2015 at 11:15 am

I am the pet sitter that seems to be hired the most by people who had a “bad experience” with their last pet sitter. A few of my ongoing clients had pet sitters that didn’t show up. One had a pet sitter that blew off their house for a whole week while they were out of town. It was awful and sad when they came home.

I would highly suggest looking for insured pet sitters in your area through the zip code search tool at petsitllc.com, the place that I’m insured through. Insurance covers things like carpet even if you somehow forget to visit. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened to me because that is like my worst nightmare.

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32 Crystal December 11, 2015 at 10:47 am

J, I’m sorry about Bob cat!!! Bad pet sitters piss off good pet sitters worse than most people.

Thank you so much for having me over for the day!

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33 J. Money December 17, 2015 at 3:19 pm

Thanks so much for taking the time to share! And to comment back to everyone – I love your work ethic :)

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34 Michelle December 11, 2015 at 12:35 pm

I wish you lived closer to me so that you could pet sit for me. You seem like such a great pet sitter! :)

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35 Crystal December 11, 2015 at 4:35 pm

Don’t you drive all around in your RV? Just give me a call when you are in north Houston! ;-)

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36 Joe December 11, 2015 at 1:53 pm

Oh wow, great job! One of my nomadic friend pet/house sit for a living. She doesn’t need an apartment anymore. She can stay with one of her friends for the occasional dry spells. Pet sitting sounds like fun as long as nothing goes wrong. I’d get so stressed out when something happens.

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37 Crystal December 11, 2015 at 4:37 pm

I get stressed too. The trick is not letting the stress paralyze you. If a dog or cat is super sick or the house is destroyed, you get the pets where they are the safest, cuss a little, clean up, and handle everything the best you can. It’s just like any job, just with clients that can’t talk, lol.

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38 Tawcan December 11, 2015 at 2:08 pm

Sounds like a great side hustle. I love dogs and cats and the idea of earning money for doing something you love is great.

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39 Crystal December 11, 2015 at 4:38 pm

It’s the first step to any successful business for sure!

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40 Slackerjo December 11, 2015 at 3:55 pm

I worked as a dog sitting on and off years ago (along with my full time job) with one goal in mind, buying a 27″ TV. It was back in the days of tube TVs and the thing cost $500. That’s a lot of poop. It took me about 8 months to save up the money but I got my TV. I was depressed for a week when that TV died a few years ago.

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41 Crystal December 11, 2015 at 4:40 pm

Ooohhh, I could see where you’d be attached after so much poop. Maybe you could do like 10 pet sitting jobs now and get yourself a $300 flat screen on sale. :-D

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42 Vicki December 11, 2015 at 5:07 pm

My partner, daughter and I have been on an extended road trip since September. Mostly we have been doing house sitting which is really staying at peoples ( mostly) amazing homes and looking after their ( mostly) awesome animals. We do this for free in exchange for a place to stay and our time to care for the animals. Most homes here have a pool and bells and whistles so it is a great gig. We even received payment in one case which was unexpected. Dogs are our usual charges though we have had peacocks, chickens, goats, horses, cows, ducks, cats and kittens. It is my experience that dogs and cats actually act differently for carers than they do for people who are staying with them. We had one experience where we went to clean out the chicken coop to find a 6 foot python had eaten one of our charges and was lying in a food coma with a full belly while the other 3 chickens sat there in terror. The snake could not leave because it was way too fat now and could not fit through the wire. We eventually lifted it up and over the fence and it moved on. Unfortunately the snake had either frightened the other chickens to the point that another one died and we had to watch it suffer until its demise ( we are in Australia so it is summer here and very, very hot) and then bury it. We had one old dog who snored like a steam train, another who was pregnant and delivered pups and some dogs who eat better than some humans I know. I will say that the animals are usually incredible and indeed it is a great way to save money by taking care of them. Some of the owners are either inexperienced or have taken on more than they can handle with their animals and it shows in the behaviors of the animals. Great post. I had a good chuckle ( in solidarity) about the chocolate bar story. Oh my

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43 Crystal December 11, 2015 at 6:03 pm

The chicken story sounds stressful but not as bad as the one that had puppies! I can toss a snake, but I have no idea what to do when I start with one dog and end with 6+ dogs, LOL.

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44 J. Money December 17, 2015 at 3:24 pm

OMG!!!! That snake would freak me out!! I can’t believe it got too fat to leave! hahah…. that is all kinds of hilarious (except for the chickens, of course)

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45 Vicki December 11, 2015 at 10:04 pm

Lol..I know! I realised today that the woman we house sat for went from 4 dogs to 11 just like that. They are border collies so I am sure she will be able to find homes for them.

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46 David Hunter December 12, 2015 at 1:11 pm

Keep on rockin’, Crystal!!!

Seems like I’ve been following you forever now! I know your whole life story! hahaha

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47 Crystal December 12, 2015 at 3:43 pm

LOL, I do blog about pretty much everything. Hi, David!

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48 Debtman December 12, 2015 at 4:22 pm

I’m a total dog guy. Sephoria sounds too creepy for me! I’m pretty sure I’d squeal like a girl.

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49 Marko Zupanic December 15, 2015 at 11:59 am

Wow… It’s very inspirational article. Thank you for all information in this post ;)

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